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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Twin Peaks 50/50 Indian Truck Trail Aid Station

Woke at 3:00 A.M. Saturday.  Out the door by 3:15, arriving about an hour later to the Twin Peaks 50/50 (that is 50 kilometer / 50 mile endurance race) starting in Corona.  It was dark of course, as volunteers busily packed their cars for the first shift of the day.  Our crew was to "man" the station 6.5 miles into the race, the Indian Truck Trail aid station (where the 50 milers would pass by 3 times, and the 50 k runners 2 times).  In our "crew":  myself, Kathryn, Birgett, Mark Ryne (whom I first met at the '08 Get Your Kicks on Route 66 Half Marathon), the photographer, two charming radio guys (true gentlemen), and our favorite Forestry fire captain, who was once referred to as "Hollywood" (because he was born in North Hollywood -- I was born in North Hollywood too) -- anyway, we referred to him as well as  "Hollywood."  

We didn't all head off to the station together; no, it didn't go that smoothly.  We three women took off first under darkness, the back filled with supplies, water, food, etc.  Thing was, we couldn't take that 6.5 mile road directly up the mountain to our station, because it was closed to automobiles due to storms.  Word was, parts of the trail had "collapsed."

This is how it went:  We got onto the freeway, exiting in Lake Elsinore and headed up Ortega Hwy -- TO THE TOP.  The city lights view was spectacular, the lake a giant black void.  That cliff going up though, made me a little nervous.  It always has, which is why I never take that route anywhere.  Ever. 

We were looking for the "radio guy in a truck,  parked in front of a gate."  He would give us directions to the Indian Truck Trail spot to set up our aid station.  Searching the dark Highway 74, to no avail for quite some time, we suddenly came upon a truck, parked in front of a gate overlooking the city.  When Birgett jumped out of the car and ran up to that truck, I said "Man, I wish I brought my pepper spray."  I saw her tap on the window, then she rushed back to our car, jumped back in. 

"Not him," she said.  "Let's Go."

"Well, who was he, what was he doing?" we asked.  

"I don't know what he was doing, I don't want to know what he was doing, let's just get out of here."

We all nervously laughed.

Well, we finally found another guy in a truck parked in front of a gate (just how many guys park their trucks in front gates  up there on the mountain?  ; )  This time, we got it right.  He told us the way, and we were off -- through Blue Jay Campground on a paved road, then onto a dirt road, until finally, FINALLY, we came upon a locked gate.  Birgett and I jumped out, she with the key, we both pushed about the heaviest gate in the whole wide world open for Kathryn to drive through. 

We were off again, but not on a smooth ride.  The first runners were estimated to reach our station at 6:10 and we were fast approaching that.  The road was rocky, in some places steep, at times riding on the edge of a cliff.  We bottomed-out often and slowed at every turnout hoping to see that table for us to set up the station.  Nothing.  For a few miles, we climbed, the road getting rockier and rockier, until finally . . . we were STUCK.  Poor Kathryn's car would move no further.  It smelled of burnt rubber; her engine light went off.

Who knew how close we were to the station.  All we knew was that 1)  it was still dark but we had little time to spare, 2) we had too much equipment to carry it in, and 3) we had NO PHONE SERVICE.  But what did that matter?  We couldn't call the race director, because we didn't have her cell number!  Yikes! 

After hiking to a high point, we found service on our cells.  Kathryn phoned home, I believe, asking someone to look through her e-mail for the Jessica, the race director's number.   (How silly was I not to get her cell number before taking off -- mental note -- GET THE CELL NUMBER, ESPECIALLY WHEN GOING OFF INTO UNKNOWN, DARK MOUNTAIN ROADS :)

What to do, what to do . . . ?

"I know someone who knows Jessica," I said. 

"Well, CALL THEM," my fellow aid station workers responded in unison. 

It was 6:00 AM, when I uncomfortably phoned Tom's cell.  I felt awkward, not wanting to wake his family.  But then again, I was pretty sure he's an early riser.  No Answer.  I left a message. 

So there we were, three women, just before dawn, standing on a cold mountain, a car (stuck in the road) full of supplies for endurance runners, wondering what we should do.  I was for hiking it in.  We were three runners, we could hike into anywhere -- it could take us who knows how long (we still had no idea where the station was) and chances were, we couldn't get much of the supplies in by foot.  But what else were we to do?  We were concerned about missing those first runners.  That really was the top issue.   

And then, there was a rumble in the road, and headlights appeared. The radio guys!!!  We packed all our gear into the back of their truck.  As we discussed how they would push Kathryn's car out of the road with their truck, another set of headlights appeared!  Rescued.  The forestry service drove up, and he ("Hollywood" -- I don't recall his actual name) stoically got Kathryn's car out of the rut, and backed it into a safe spot.  There was no way her car was going to make it to the top.  It just didn't have the clearance needed. (In hindsight, I'm guessing we were about 6 miles from our station at that point)

I saw the writing on the wall -- there was one extra space in the radio truck and one extra seat in the forestry service truck.  That left one person walking.  So, I zipped up my coat and headed up the mountain.  Believe me, I felt happy, at home, to hike up a steep trail.  What I didn't feel happy about, nor did my fellow aid workers, was that we probably weren't going to make the station by the time the first runners made it through.  Big bummer -- and on my first volunteer!  (It was Kathryn and Birgett's first volunteer as well). But what an adventure, I'll tell ya!  What an adventure!

Car stuck, aid arrives as clock ticks away 


Racing against the clock, the first and second wave of runners have already left the start line : (

"Hollywood", Birgett and Kathryn (after getting car to side of road)

I enjoyed that hike as the sun  began to show its face above the horizon.  The radio truck passed me near the top of that first climb, which I cleared before the Fire Service even started his truck.  They caught up with me on a level portion.  They slowed, when the Fire Captain (I don't know his official title, but he was a Captain to me) called out, "Get in, if you guys don't mind sitting on each other's laps."  After walking a good mile (I'm sure more with the elevation), I hopped on in. Kathryn and I shared one bucket seat with the promise not to tell anyone.  Shhhhh!  Things are official with the Feds.  There was only ONE PASSENGER IN THAT TRUCK, AND THAT'S ALL I'M SAYING : ))

Then not too soon after that, the front runners started passing us on the road.  (Big Bummer -- there was no aid for them at the first station!)  Birgett doled out water from the radio truck up front, as well as, attempted to record the runners passing her.

One of the front runners was Larry G. (see Bulldog August 09), whom I have run with on a occassion.  Of course, I haven't really run "with" him, being that he is a far surperior runner.  But we have at least started off on runs together.  And then travelling upon that rocky, cliff road, we came upon another group of runners.   One of those runners that I wanted to see cross my station was Catra (Dirt Diva) . She was travelling in that cluster of runners as we passed, smiling of course as she does in her blogs.

We finally arrived at our aid site a little before 7:00 AM, approximately 2 hours later than planned!!!!  We set up the table ASAP,  sandwiches made, water and cups out, etc. etc.  I don't know the actual temperature up there on that ridge, but I'd say it was freezing.  I was layered good, three shirts, coat, wool beanie, gloves, even warm socks to my knees.  We were in time to aid the tail end of the first wave and of course all of the second and remaining waves.  Kathryn and Birgett pleasantly greeted them all at the table, while I recorded times.  The radio guys set up there radio and antenna, and began calling in runner numbers with times. 

There were periods of no runners, then occassionally, one would come through.  Then suddenly a small cluster of runners would come through that first approximate 7 mile stretch.  (I grew excited about running again, as my hip ached sitting in my chair).  Some time into this all, Mark and the photographer arrived (mental note:  get the names next time!)  And we all had a pleasant, quite cold, morning together, runners sparse on this mountain trail.  I saw lots of familiar faces, mainly from blogs I read.  I also saw fellow club member, Dave, (see Christmas Eve 09 run).  In all, there were 3 waves of fifty mile runners and 2 waves of 50k runners.
The Benchmark at our station spot (Elevation 3800 feet)

Sodas, water, electrolytes, skittles, m&m's, bananas, oranges, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips, pretzels, potatoes, salt / most popular items: water, potatoes, salt, and sandwiches.

Indian Truck Trail (what the runners see approaching our station)

Views from our station:

Runners coming into Indian Truck Trail Station (next aid 4 miles @ West Horsethief)
Walking down Indian Truck Trail a bit to take a look

"Sweepers" in their trucks drove by periodically.  Radio communications between stations and the start lines went on pretty much continually.  At one point, a young woman jumped out of the "sweeper" car and handed us three gigantic, beautiful submarine sandwiches.  The runners were all a delight, friendly, comical, and grateful.  Some ran up with gusto, others quite slowly, fatigued from the six and a half mile climb.  Very few runners ran past our station without stopping.  Some stayed for a minute or two, others for several minutes.  Some runners dropped their gloves, jackets and stuff beneath our table to pick up on their way into the finish.  And then there was a lull -- all waves had passed our stations.  The next time we'd see any runners would be the 50k racers on their way into the finish line, much later, we'd be seeing the 50 milers coming around for another loop. 
"Hollywood", Kathryn and Birgett
"Hollywood", Me and Birgett

Runners stopping for fuel

Indian Truck Trail Gang (from left to right): Me, Mark, Birgett, "Hollywood", Kathryn, Radio guys

At about 11:00 AM, we started getting the beginnings of 50 milers who had run off course. The first guy, turned around and headed back. Not all of the off coursers did that, instead, they said, "Heck, I'm switching to the 50k," and headed on into the finish line. They were all in good spirits about it. About half turned back, about half switched races. At about 1:00 the official end of our shift, but it looked like there wasn't going to be a shift change for a while, Birgett and I headed off to the 50M/50K split where the fifty milers were taking the wrong turn. "Hollywood" gave us some red tape and a black pen and with the report from one runner that it was about a half a mile away, we headed up a nice climb that was nowhere near a half mile. We laughed about that, taking in an amazing scene of valleys and forests. We stopped two runners we met on the way who had taken the wrong turn -- as they headed back to the split, they caught two other runners, who turned back with them.

About half way to the split, we threw our jackets to the side and marched on. While marking up the split best we could, we met another runner coming down -- an amazing runner, Greg who was hilarious. He had Birgett and I both cracking up as we headed back down the trail.

The shift change happened after 2 o'clock. Hank was also coming in for his shift -- he was "sweeping" by foot the trails inaccessible by truck. The mood was festive and gleeful, exciting, chaotic as more and more 50k runners made their way for the finish, and 50 milers began to cross by the Indian Truck Trail station for the second time (the 38 mile mark for them).  We caught a ride with a sweeper who took that mountain road at record speed. I closed my eyes when the road dipped and the truck tilted toward the cliff. We finally rolled on into the finish line about 3:30.

What a day! What a great crowd!  What a great mountain!  I am running Twin Peaks next year for sure! I better get working.

Another Amazing Runner (as she crosses the finish line just about the time we arrive)


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  2. Sounded like a crazy day Lauren. I'm glad to hear all worked out well in the long run. I can attest to the gnarly ride up to your aid station. I still have a few lumps on the noggin from whacking my head inside the truck. It was great to see you, Kathryn, and Brigitte all at the same time, really made my day. The day started off nerve racking for two reasons: 1) I didn't know the course 2) The other sweeper was a no-show. There was some confusion as to where and when I was to sweep. Once they got all that squared, I was trucked to the Upper Holy Jim Trail. My route was as follows: Start from Upper Holy Jim and work my way down to Lower Holy Jim to Trabuco Trail to Horsethief Trail and take HT all the way up to the main road. It was around 12 miles give or take. The toughest section was the climb up Horsethief Trail. In the end all worked out and I made it back safely to run another day. :)

  3. Horsetheif is super tough! I'm sure glad I didn't have to do it. We also were a little frustrated not knowing the course. Next time, it will definately be my plan to memorize the course (next time though, I plan to be running it : )

    I'm glad it worked out in the end. It was getting pretty warm when we left, I can only imagine how hard that 12 mile trip really was!

  4. The Indian TT morning crew were superstars for making it work when you go stuck! I was having a mild panic attack down there when I heard but you guys got it down and got there!!

  5. Wow - what a gnarly start to the day! I dig the write up + pics! Sorry I missed ya out there.

  6. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Y'all are a bunch of heros.

  7. Thanks for reading guys (& gals). It really was a joy to volunteer. It was my first time, looking forward to the next time. Hopefully, I can run Twin Peaks 50 miler next year (YIKES! -- I think I ought to do a 50k first : )

  8. Great Post.. wonder where did you find all those trucks, good work keep it up

  9. Lovely pics and great post.I enjoyed it reading.Thanks for posting.
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